- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 15, 2002

ANNAPOLIS Many farmers across Maryland have begun harvesting what's left of their crops after a dry, hot summer. Figures released Thursday by the U.S. Department of Agriculture show their yield may be even lower than previously expected.
Based on conditions as of Sept. 1, corn production is expected to be down 41 percent from last year and down 47 percent from 2000. Maryland cornfields are yielding an average of 78 bushels of corn per acre, down 58 percent from a year ago. In all, the lowest yield since 1993.
Soybean production, meanwhile, is forecast to be down 47 percent from last year and 52 percent from the year before.
"It's not pretty," said Ray Garibay, state statistician for the Maryland Agriculture Statistics Service.
Last week's rain may help green up some of the late season soybeans, but it came too late to salvage the corn, 73 percent of which is in poor or very poor condition.
"The glimmer of a hope we had on Aug. 1, when rain would've been a benefit, just fizzled out," Mr. Garibay said. "Any amount of water now isn't going to help that."
Across the country, corn production is down 7 percent and the reduction in supply is resulting in increased prices. That could benefit those few Maryland farmers who had enough water in their wells to irrigate their crops.
Increased prices and decreased supply are going to hurt poultry processors in the region, who will have to import more grain from the Midwest to provide their growers.
"Feed is the No. 1 cost for poultry processors, so it's definitely going to drive their costs up," said Doug Green, vice president of Delmarva Poultry Industry, Inc.
The poultry industry already was stung this year when Russia the leading overseas destination for U.S. poultry banned imports for five months, citing sanitary concerns.
Mr. Green himself raises chickens on his 200-acre farm in Princess Anne, where he also grows corn and soybeans.
Last month, Gov. Parris N. Glendening, Democrat, asked the federal government to declare a disaster in every county except Garrett and Allegany, which have been spared the worst of the drought. Since April 1, Maryland counties have been up to 6 inches below normal in accumulated rainfall.
A federal disaster declaration, which is still pending, would entitle farmers who have suffered at least a 30 percent loss in their crop production to seek low-interest loans to help them through the tough year.

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